International Kissing Day 2015 recently took place, which led us to wonder: why do we touch the mezuzah, then kiss our hand? Is this a tradition or a law? We asked Rabbanit Chani Perman Rosenblum. This is her answer.
Where it All Began
We are told the story of Onkelos. Though he was a nephew to Caesar, he chose to abandon the greatness that was to become his, and instead embarked on a search for truth. It was this search that led him to convert to Judaism.
He remains so much an integral figure in Jewish history that we continue to turn to his translation of the Chumash to Aramaic to understand the literal meaning of the Torah until this very day.
The Gemara tells us that upon discovering his whereabouts, Caesar immediately sent soldiers to bring Onkelos back home to fulfil his role in the great Roman Empire. Yet rather than obeying the soldiers, he engaged them in conversation about his newly found faith, and, after becoming convinced of the truth of Judaism themselves, the soldiers elected to convert and stay with Onkelos.
After this perceived failure, Caesar then sent another group of soldiers, specifically prohibiting them from engaging in any conversation with his nephew. They obeyed, and upon arriving immediately began forcibly removing Onkelos from his new home. As they passed through the doorway, Onkelos placed his hand on the mezuzah.
Their curiosity piqued, the soldiers asked Onkelos what he was doing. He then explained to them that while Caesar needs soldiers to protect him, G-d protects all of His people, and G-d protects their every arrival and departure, now and forever. They too converted, and Caesar never again sent a group of soldiers.
A Tradition is Born
This is the first instance we find of mezuzah being touched upon leaving the home. Later, the great Kabbalist Arizal encouraged the adoption of the custom of kissing the Mezuzah, which we continue to practice today.
The Torah’s commandment is simply to affix the mezuzah to each doorpost. Yet Jews all over the world choose to kiss the mezuzah as we enter and leave our houses. It’s a tradition we all happily celebrate.
Why We Kiss the Mezuzah
There are many explanations as to why we do this, for it is a mitzvah that has great depth. That said, I’d like to share a few simple thoughts on the topic.
The Torah states, “G-d will protect your goings.” When we place our hand upon the mezuzah, we encounter the unity of G-d and are reminded of our love for Him.
In touching the mezuzah, we also remember to take Him along with us, wherever we go.
Finally, and perhaps needless to say, touching the mezuzah then kissing our hand also reminds us to make G-d comfortable in our home!
The Beauty Inherent in Tradition
All day long, we run around in circles, dedicating ourselves to those around us and resolving constant emergencies, both big and small. Finally we arrive home—to the domain of I. But who is this I? G-d and I merge completely in the formation of the word mezuzah; we are a single entity.
Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad
We remember we are not alone. G-d is with us and He cares.
This is precisely why the Rebbe embraced the custom of children mezuzah touching the mezuzah, then kissing their hand before to going to bed. Doing so cements a wonderful and important idea: that there is one G-d who is always watching over them.
Why do you kiss your mezuzah?